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The Longest Night: A Reflection for Wednesday, December 21

By Rev. Ellie VerGowe


Daily Lectionary reading: 1 Samuel 2:1-10; Genesis 37:2-11; Matthew 1:1-17

Selected passage for reflection: Matthew 1:1-17, NRSV

Read

Matthew 1:1-17, NRSV

An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.

So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.



Reflect

As I read through the names of Jesus’ ancestors, I am struck by how many generations waited for God to show up for them in their own stories and in the story of their people.


Kings and humble people in this family tree began telling stories to help them hope as they waited for companionship and safety, for babies to be born, and for grief to let them catch a breath. They began to tell stories of peace and freedom as they waited for wars to stop, for food to become less scarce and to be able to go back home again. They remembered God’s rescue of their people in the past as they waited for the pain to end in the present. They began telling lore of an awaited messiah who would make things right.


And I imagine that each and every ancestor of Jesus (those included in this list and those left out), had trouble holding on to hope through generations of waiting. I bet they wondered if the waiting would ever end.


I have certainly wondered this myself. What if I never see what I have longed for? What if the diagnosis I am waiting for is bad news? What if school shootings continue? What if the womanly body I inhabit is never valued and given autonomy? What if war continues in Ukraine? What if our world continues to hurtle towards irreversible climate change and the poorest in the global South continue to suffer because of it? What if pandemics never cease? What if everything I have believed ends up being a lie?


We know that God does not cause every personal or collective circumstance and that human beings tend to be the ones hurting one another and the earth. We know that God grieves with us as we grieve and that the movement of the Divine is often a mystery to us. But while we wait, we still question God’s good intentions and wonder if we are alone. Oh God, have you forgotten us? How long will we wait?


All of these questions and more, shouted in my heart, feel fitting on this, the longest night of the year. It is hard to hold hope in the darkness. What if night never ends?


But in the many years of waiting, Jesus’ ancestors unknowingly prepared the way for Christ.

So I also wonder: what might be happening in the darkness?


I wrote this poem years ago to gather hope like Jesus’ ancestors while I sit through long nights:


Waiting Winter

My soul resonates with winter this year.

It has been a long and cold year

With temperatures that close school

And winds that cut through down coats and wool scarves over faces,

Coating eyelashes with frost.

And as soon as I feel ok again,

As soon as I see that little glimpse of green grass under the ice,

Another storm moves in

And wipes out any trace of new life coming through.

How long, Oh Lord?

Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

It has been so long since I have felt the warmth of sunshine

Or been able to be free of coats and boots.

And now it is the longest night

And while I know goodness always begins

In the rich, velvet darkness of the ground

Of the womb

Of my heart,

It feels impossible to wait.

I long to rejoice,

Free of all that weighs me down and hinders progress

Forward!

With no more of this waiting and aching and bundling up

To avoid the shivers that take a hold of me.

I long to be happy, for once

And know

That you

That you love me.

But,

I guess,

This is what it means to be human…

To wait and to long for what is coming slowly and surely,

To be at least somewhat sure of what we hope for

And at times certain of what we do not see.

And as I ask you doubtfully if spring will ever come

And as I cry my hurt and my anger,

I think you renew and grow afresh

Something

Embodying strength and beauty

Under all of that snow.


Respond

On this longest night and in all waiting seasons, take a moment and remember the sprouts of early spring. What did those sprouts look like in their miniature, fragile forms? If you can, say aloud your waiting feelings to God. What is God telling you about what is happening within you and around you even though you cannot see it? What goodness is sprouting up within the rich, velvet dark?



Rest

God of the longest night, please hold us close in our doubt, hurt and anger, and show us that you are faithfully tending the gardens of our hearts and lives. In this season of winter, remind us that there are sprouts being nurtured in the dark beneath the cold ground. Remind us that darkness is just as holy as light, and that it holds rich possibility in its depths. Hide your face from us no more, show us visions of you as the humble gardener, and please give us courageous hope. Amen.



About the Author

Ellie VerGowe is staff chaplain for the Intensive Care units and the Bone Marrow Transplant unit at the Seattle VA Puget Sound Hospital and is ordained with the Progressive Christian Alliance. Ellie feels honored to hear people’s stories and meet with them in moments of crisis. She is studying grief, emerging trauma and long term trauma from a spiritual care perspective. She lives in West Seattle on the traditional lands of the Duwamish people with her partner Aaron and their Australian shepherd, Fiona. She loves hiking in the mountains, singing, painting and writing, eating good food with good people and reading a well written book on a rainy day with a cup of tea (Ellie is a grandmother at heart!).




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